Are Your Days Like a Mortal’s Days, Your Years Like the Years of a Man?

Remember the sabbath day to hallow it. Six days you shall work and you shall do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a sabbath to YHWH your God. You shall do no task…. For six days did YHWH make the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in it, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore did YHWH bless the sabbath day and hallow it (Exodus 20:8–11).

In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a sabbath, a commemoration with horn blast, a sacred convocation…. Yet on the tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement, a sacred convocation it shall be for you, and you shall afflict yourselves and bring forward a fire offering to YHWH. And no task shall you do on this very day, for it is a day of atonement to atone for you before YHWH your God…. An everlasting statute for your generations in all your dwelling places. שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (Shabbat shabbaton), an absolute sabbath, it is for you… (Leviticus 23:24, 27–28, 31–32).

When you come into the land that I am about to give you, the land shall keep a sabbath to YHWH. Six years you shall sow your fields and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its yield. And in the seventh year there shall be shabbat shabbaton, an absolute sabbath, for the land, a sabbath to YHWH…. And you shall count you seven sabbaths of years, seven years seven times, and the days of the seven sabbaths of years shall come to forty-nine years…. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and call a release in the land to all its inhabitants. A jubilee it shall be for you, and you shall go back each man to his holding and each man to his clan, you shall go back (Leviticus 25:2–4, 8–10).

“The song that the Levites would say in the Temple on the first day: They would say, YHWH’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and the dwellers within it (Psalms 24:1). On the second they would say, Great is YHWH and highly praised in our God’s town, His holy mountain (ibid. 48:2). On the third they would say, God takes His stand in the divine assembly, in the midst of the gods He renders judgment (ibid. 82:1). On the fourth they would say, God of vengeance, O YHWH, God of vengeance, shine forth! (ibid. 94:1). On the fifth they would say, Sing gladly to God our strength, shout out to the God of Jacob (ibid. 81:2). On the sixth they would say, YHWH reigns, in triumph clothed, clothed is YHWH, [in strength He is girded. Yes, the world stands firm, not to be shaken] (ibid. 93:1). On the Sabbath they would say, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (ibid. 92:1)—a psalm, a song for the time yet to come, for the day that is entirely שַׁבַּת מְנוּחָה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים (shabbat menuḥah le-ḥayyei ha-olamim), a cessation of tranquility for the One who lives eternities [cf. Bahir §180: ‘In His hand is the breath of each living thing (Job 12:10)—He is חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), Vitality of the Worlds. And any expression of בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), creation, is performed through Him. Of Him is said, He ceased and caught His breath (Exodus 31:17). He is the quality of the Sabbath day, of Him is said, Remember the Sabbath day to hallow it (ibid. 20:8)’]” (M Tamid 7:4; cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 31a).

“Rav Qattina said: Six thousand years is a world, and one [thousand years that are] חַרוּב (ḥaruv), desolate [or: ruined, withered], as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11) [cf. Zohar 1:176b (SdTs) ad loc.]. Abbaye said: Two [thousand years are] desolate, as is said, He will revive us after two days, on the third day raise us up, that we may live in His presence (Hosea 6:2).

It has been taught like Rav Qattina: Just as the seventh is one מְשַׁמֶטֶת שָׁנָה (meshametet shanah), year of release, in seven years, so is a world: one thousand years out of seven shall be מְשַׁמֵּט (meshammet), fallow, as is written, And YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day, and it is further said, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1)—the day that is entirely a cessation [of tranquility]. It is also said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4).

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu taught: Six thousand years is a world: two thousand תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos; two thousand תּוֹרָה (torah), Law [and order]; two thousand years the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 97a).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: It is written, And the earth was תֹהוּ (tohu), welter, and waste (Genesis 1:2). Was—what does it mean? Welter, already was” (Bahir §2).

“Rabbi Ḥanin said, ‘… The earth was (Genesis 1:2)—it already had been’” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:15).

These are the begettings of the heavens (Genesis 2:4)—Rabbi Abbahu said, ‘Wherever these are is written, it invalidates the preceding, whereas and these are adds to the preceding. Here [namely, These are the begettings of the heavens], the wording these are invalidates the preceding. What is invalidated? Welter and waste and darkness (ibid. 1:2)” (Bereshit Rabbah 12:3).

And there was evening (Genesis 1:5). Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Shim’on said: It is not written let there be evening, but rather and there was evening: hence we know that an order of time existed before this. Rabbi Abbahu said: The blessed Holy One kept creating worlds and destroying them until He created these [i.e., heavens and earth]. Then He declared, ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, cf. Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, Sha’ar ha-Shoel, 12).

“Rabbi Tanḥuma opened: Everything He has עָשָׂה (asah), done, aptly in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Rabbi Tanḥuma said: The world was created in its time, and the world was not fit to be created earlier. Rabbi Abbahu said: Hence we learn that the blessed Holy One was creating worlds and destroying them, creating worlds and destroying them, until He created these [i.e., the heavens and earth], and then He said: ‘These please Me, those do not.’ Rabbi Pinḥas said: This is Rabbi Abbahu’s reason: And God saw all that He had עָשָׂה (asah), done, and, look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31): ‘These please Me, those do not’ [cf. Zohar 1:24b–25a (TZ): ‘… it does not mean He destroyed His own makings as people might think’; 3:292b (IZ)]” (Bereshit Rabbah 9:2).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, saying, ‘That which is has already been called by name, and what is to be [… already has been] (Ecclesiastes 3:15, 6:10). That which is has already [been]—corresponding to what we have learned: Before the blessed Holy One created this world, He created worlds and destroyed them, until the blessed Holy One entertained the desire to create this world, and He consulted the Torah. Then He was arrayed in His adornments and adorned with His crowns, and He created the world. All that exists in this world was already in His presence, rising before Him, arranged before Him (Zohar 3:61a–b).

“ש (Shin)—this letter was of four prongs but now she is [only of] three…. The mystery of the root of unity [is] in her… without gain, or change, as is written, I am YHWH, I have not changed (Malachi 3:6)—from [the aspect of] Atsilut, Emanation, unity remains without joining or change in essence. The power of divinity acts, and His unity in Atsilut… [imbues] the shape [of the four-pronged shin with] a power to unite. For with this power the shape is comprised in Atsilut, [the world of] unity, to unite with Torah, commandments, and statutes, [according to] the need of שְׁמִטָּה (shemittah), the sabbatical year. And her Torah’s nature [is] to unite and to mend her way, with upright commandments unique to the need of healing for souls in exile. 

And in the future [the three-pronged shin] will transform and she will be of a square shape, [according] to the need of the shemittah. She came in her splendor with her Torah and statute in the mystery of unity befitting her in Atsilut and the unique order [of] the shemittah—for she already was, but her Torah passed and [there] came the power of the shape with three prongs in her place [cf. TZ 14a–b on Proverbs 30:23; Zohar 3:124b–25b (RM)]. Now, [according to] the need she gives Torah and statute—according to the quality of the way [of the shemittah]. For every matter and outside power come from her side, such as, You shall make you no carved likeness and no image [of what is in the heavens above or what is on the earth below or what is in the waters beneath the earth] (Exodus 20:4)—[this] quality overcomes [idolatry with her Torah of prohibitions], for all [that] is far [from holiness is] from her side…. Thus at the giving of Torah came ‘you shall do’ and ‘you shall not do’ in the 613 commandments….

Therefore, the letter was missing at the giving of Torah and Shekhinah [was] in her place. As with the creation of the world, Ḥesed, Kindness, [was missing from] the structure [of the six lower sefirot] and Shekhinah [was] with them to complete the structure [on justice as the basis of the world, see M Avot 1:18; Avot de-Rabbi Natan B, 43; Bereshit Rabbah 14:1; Shemot Rabbah 30:13; Zohar 1:180b; 2:22b, 122a; 3:30b, 32a; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 291, 345. Cf. Psalms 89:3: The world shall be built on kindness].

Now, in the days of Noah [it was] a time of grace and light—the quality which already came. He was a righteous and blameless man in his generation [which was totally evil and whose sustained existence was only by the grace and kindness of YHWH, see Genesis 6:5–8; cf. BT Sanhedrin 108b; Zohar 1:58a, 61b–62a]. There the letter was whole, enduring in his place…. And now the shape of [shin is of] three prongs [in] the second, harsh, shemittah [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §34: ‘He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire’]. In her is the need of the shemittah to remove every carved likeness and image. And all leavened dough comes from her side [cf. JT Berakhot 4:2, 7d]. And from her we will [ultimately] come to unite, to join with commandments of unity, in His emanation, such as tefillin, tsitsit, sukkah, lulav, and the like. For they [are meant] to unite [all] supernals as one. But הָפַךְ (hafakh), He overturned [the order]—this [shemittah] is not for joining, nor for unifying the singular Power, holy things [serve] the need of the profane [see BT Pesaḥim 50a; cf. Naḥmanides, Perush le-Sefer Yetsirah, 1:1, §1; Zohar 3:124b–25b (RM)]. For what is forbidden in this is permitted in that [cf. BT Niddah 61b; Midrash Tehillim 146:4]. Since from the power of the shape [of the four-pronged shin] we will understand [how] to join holies through the unity of Atsilut, and overturn forbidden [acts], such as eating of an offering…. The [three-pronged] shape of the letter [ש (shin) is] in [the shape of] a root—the [three] Patriarchs [cf. Bahir  §118]. And the Chariot [too is] in their shape, lacking the Shekhinah. Yet, the Shekhinah is with them, [and they are] with Her as one” (Sefer ha-Temunah 3, 61b–62a, cf. Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, Sha‘ar Ma’amarei Rashbi 46b).

“According to the way of Kabbalah: יוֹבֵל (Yovel), jubilee—from the language [of], And by יוּבַל (yuval), a stream, it sends forth its roots, [and it shall not see when the heat wave comes, and its leaves shall be lush, and in a drought year it shall have no care and never cease from yielding fruit] (Jeremiah 17:8). And it hints that all the generations יוּבְלוּ (yuvelu), will be led [back], to the First Cause, and therefore Jubilee is called דְּרוֹר (deror), Release [or: Freedom] (Leviticus 25:10), since it is Jubilee who sends forth הַדּוֹרוֹת (ha-dorot), the generations, and all those who are created [on Jubilee (Binah) and freedom, see Zohar 1:220b; 3:95b, 101a, 102b, 108a; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 167, 169]. For from there they emanate in בְּרִית עוֹלָם (berit olam), an eternal covenant, as is said, בְּרֵאשִׁית (bereshit), in the beginning, God created (Genesis 1:1) [—בְּרִית אֵשׁ (berit esh), covenant of fire; cf. Jeremiah 33:25: Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth]. And Her name, [תְּשׁוּבָה (teshuvah), Return, attests to] their return. And understand this, for every single one of the seven [sefirot] acts [on] seven thousand [years]. And, look, they are forty-nine—when forty-nine [shemittot, sabbatical years] are completed the world will be welter and waste (ibid., 2), and all will be restored to Jubilee, just as [all] emanates from there—understand this. And this is the language of: In this jubilee year you shall go back, each man to his holding (Leviticus 25:13). And the probing sages [i.e., philosophers], say in their language: All was from the First Cause, and all returns to the First Cause.

Now, if you understand the secret of הַשְּׁמִטָּה וְהַיּוֹבֵל (ha-shemittah ve-ha-yovel), the sabbatical year and the jubilee, you will not disregard that which was mentioned of the shemittahyour field… your vineyard… your harvest… your untrimmed vine (ibid., 3–5)—in the second person. For after the shemittah has passed Scripture called שַׁבַּת מְנוּחָה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים (shabbat menuḥah le-ḥayyei ha-olamim), a cessation of tranquility for the One who lives eternities [or: … for the Vitality of the Worlds; cf. M Tamid 7:4], [and these] will be yours as before. Now, look at the emphasis of the verse, A psalm, a song for Sabbath day (Psalms 92:1), hinting to what will be after the sabbath, as is said, The righteous man springs up like the palm tree (ibid., 13). And it is written, May the righteous man flourish in his days—and abundant peace till the moon is no more (ibid. 72:7)—also hinting at: and they were completed (Genesis 2:1), after which is said, and God blessed the seventh day (ibid., 3) in order to make it known what will be after the seventh day, sealed with the word לַעֲשׂוֹת (la-asot), to do (ibid.), as if to say: acts [still left] to do [after the shemittah] and to call the generations from the beginning. And because of this it says of the mitsvah of shemittahyour field… your vineyard… your harvest… your untrimmed vine—[it says] your, while it did not say so of the jubilee, but rather, its aftergrowths… its untrimmed vines (Leviticus 25:11), accordingly, its and not yours.

And I already mentioned this in order [of the Torah portions] at Mishpatim. And from this is said, [In the jubilee year the field shall revert…to Him who has the holding of the land (ibid. 27:24)—it does not say, [to him whoinherits the land [cf. Exodus 23:30]. For the notion of inheritance is that which a man inherits in due time, yet it says, the holding, which is language mainly instructive of first owners, as is written, [If you see the oppression of the poor and the perversion of justice and right in the province, be not amazed at the matter,for he who is high has a higher one watching him, and still higher ones over them (Ecclesiastes 5:7). Now this is clarified” (Rabbenu Baḥya ben Asher on Leviticus 25:10).

“Said the small Yitsḥaq of Akko [circa 5065/1305 C.E.]: I saw [the need] to write a great secret which is fitting to conceal very well: Know that a day of the blessed Holy One is one thousand years of ours, as is said, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like a day (Psalms 90:4) [And: Are Your days like a mortal’s days, Your years like the years of a man? (Job 10:5)]. Now, our year is 365 and a quarter days. If so, a year above is 365,250 years of ours. And two years above are 730,500 years of ours. From now on go out and double, and [then] go out and double [again], until 49,000 years—that each day of the 365,250 above is a thousand years of ours, as is written, [The eyes of human haughtiness are brought down, and men’s righteousness is bowed low,] and YHWH alone shall be raised high on that day (Isaiah 2:11); Who can utter YHWH’s mighty acts, [can make heard all His praise?] (Psalms 106:2). Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom, forever and ever. And all of this is as Scripture said. Surely, its figure—[be it] twice as much, thousands upon thousands of thousands—is not in His eyes reckoned [as even] a moment.

Now, יֹצְרוֹ (yotsro), [the world’s] Fashioner, is צ״ע—צַדִּיק עֶלְיוֹן (tsaddiq elyon), the supernal Righteous One [cf. Proverbs 10:25: The Righteous One is the foundation of the world; JT Berakhot 1:5, 10b. Alt., Now, צִיּוּרוֹ (tsiyyuro), its figure (i.e., the duration of the world) צ״ע—צָרִיךְ עִיּוּן (tsarikh iyyun), requires reflection]. Surely, with אֵין סוֹף (ein sof), Infinity, it is enough for you to say ein sof, without end [and nothing more], if your wish [is] that your soul endure in her palace [i.e., her body]…. Glimpse at Him and you will be like Son of Azzai [who glimpsed and died]: Precious in the eyes of YHWH is the death of His faithful ones (Psalms 116:15) [see BT Ḥagigah 14b ad loc.; cf. Rabbi Yitsḥaq of Akko, Otsar Ḥayyim 161b]—the blessed Holy One has no desire that you kill [yourself] inasmuch as you were not permitted: You have no business with hidden and wondrous matters [see BT Ḥagigah 13a]. Do not inquire [of Ein Sof, Infinity, but rather] eat and you will be revived [cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ḥayyei ha-Olam ha-Ba]. That you should know Him and serve Him, You shall be wholehearted with YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 18:13)—knowledge with intention [to serve Him]. Surely, the thought of your mind will be with Him, clinging perpetually, without imaginary fashionings [that are] not whole, [or] complete [cf. Bahir §47 on Deuteronomy 4:15]. For according to your watching over Him, so will be His watching over you [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:16–21]…. 

And clear proof concerning the duration of [this] world a great many years, for which the heart will be made weary tallying it, is from what Isaiah the prophet said, peace be upon him, [There shall not be there a tender babe or elder who will not live out his days. For like] a lad he shall die at a hundred, [and who misses a hundred shall be thought accursed] (Isaiah 65:20). Just as we say now of a baby aged three or younger who dies, so will be said in the time yet to come of a man who has lived [only] a hundred years and died, ‘a baby has died.’ For so great will be the human lifespan. And if one of little faith comes to deny this strange notion say to him that it already has been: Methuselah lived thirty [-one] shy of a thousand years [see Genesis 5:27]. For certainly the man who lived a hundred years and died in the days of Methuselah, of him Methuselah [must have] said, ‘A small baby has died.’

And now I will say a thing which requires reflection, and that is that one hundred years of the blessed Holy One are thirty-six times 150,000 years of ours. And since we said that a year above is 365,250 years… go out and tally to one hundred years and to a thousand years and a man need not speculate further. Behold, our eyes see that the duration of the world is very long, to remove from the hearts of those who say its duration is only 49,000 years [of ours], which are seven שְׁמִטּוֹת (shemittot), sabbatical years” (Rabbi Yitsḥaq of Akko, Otsar Ḥayyim 86b–87b).